Joan Griffis/Illinois Ancestors: Conference to focus on female ancestors

Joan Griffis/Illinois Ancestors: Conference to focus on female ancestors

Unnamed women in a family tree can be one of a genealogist's greatest challenges. To help researchers with this task, this year's conference of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society (LMHS) will have a special focus on historical and genealogical records that pertain to women.

For example, the keynote speaker, Jane E. Wilcox's opening address will be "Forget Me Not: Opening the Doors for the Ladies in Your Ancestry." She will also speak on the overlooked resources of the Hudson Valley Palatine tenant farmers. Her seminar, "A Tale of Woe: An 18th Century Woman's Story Using Original and Authored Sources," will feature women's rights under the law.

Anne Schmidt-Lange will present new findings on the European genealogical background of prominent Lancaster County Colonial families. Also her seminar, "Beware of the Phantom Mennonites of 1671," will cover the latest research connecting local Mennonite families with their namesake 17th century counterparts documented in the Swiss archives.

James M. Beidler will present a workshop, "Learn German Script." Also, his case study will illustrate how a European village of origin can be determined.

Joanne Hess Siegrist will present "Women's Voices Through Photographs."

Jonathan R. Stayer will discuss Pennsylvania's land records.

Small group tours will offered at the library (limited to 15 people per day) and free use of the library and archives will be offered to conference participants. (The library has over 3,000 published genealogies, 2,500 cemetery transcriptions, local court and tax records, and more.)

With women comprising 50 percent of our ancestors it is appropriate that a conference be focused on learning more about records that identify them.

This conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 12-15 at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602.

For a complete schedule (including additional seminars) as well as registration information, write to LMHS (address above) or phone 717-393-9745 or visit

Pension project doing well

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) has announced that its Preserve the Pension Project has passed the $2 million mark. This is the first time the genealogical community has come together to raise such a significant amount of money to preserve priceless documents — thus saving taxpayers $3.45 million dollars.

The Preserve the Pension Project has been digitizing the pension records from the War of 1812 and so far over 4 million records have been digitized and made available on the Internet at is providing a dollar for dollar matching grant and thus a donation of $45 is matched by an additional $45, and will pay for 200 pages to be digitized. (It costs 45 cents to digitize one page.)

FGS was founded in 1976 and represents members of hundreds of genealogical societies. The next annual FGS conference will be held in Springfield on Aug. 31— Sept. 3, 2016, with the Illinois State Genealogical Society as the local host. Visit for more information or write FGS, PO Box 200940, Austin, TX 78720-0940; phone 1-888-347-1500.

Catalog research strategies

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) in Springfield has many resources helpful to researchers. Locating such materials can be easier if one uses the library's Catalog Search Strategies as found online at There one can learn how to conduct a "productive search" in published family genealogies, state and local genealogy resources, directories, census records, periodicals, maps and gazetteers, church resources, military resources, military pensions, cemetery resources, ethnic resources, naturalization resources and passenger resources.

The toolbar on the right (on the ALPLM website provided above) has links to additional useful information: directories and guides, beginning your research, genealogy news, other resources and requesting genealogical research. Be sure to check them all.

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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